Tuesday, 25 June 2013

New Age

I quite like New Age self-help books, which are often looked down upon with disdain by religious folk.
But personally I think that books that encourage folks to attend to the inner life should on the whole be encouraged.
Over the long vacation (ie: Christmas in Australia) I read about The Sedona Method, and felt so enamoured of the discussion of the curiously named Hale Dwoskin (he of the very irritating laugh!!... sure he would be the first to admit it) that I ran a short course in our parish to explore The Sedona Method in a Christian context.
BUT, (and this is probably a big BUT) my course also encouraged people in the Ignatian Examen. Indeed it seems to me that Herr Doktor Dwoskin, and Blessed Inigo have quite a lot in common.
Dwoskin is asking people to attend to the emotions that drive and govern them.
Control, Acceptance, Approval...Can we let these needs go?...will we let these needs go. When? Now?
As a process (slightly more comprehensive) this seemed to help me quite a lot.
And, I think, those who shared the course.
Let's release unnecessary attachments (New Age) to those things which falsely give us hope (idolatry)

BUT Blessed Ignatius (also known as Inigo) invites us to an active participation in what the Holy Spirit might be doing in our lives.
At its simplest: stop twice a day and ask yourself
How is God present to me?
What do I have to be thankful for?
What's been going on (emotionally/spiritually)?
How is this inviting me to live today?
What am I going to do tomorrow to live out of this insight?
This may seem simple, some might even say simplistic'
It is, of course, also profound.
Asking us to make scrutiny of ourselves at the most basic level.
This is perhaps what made me make the connection with the Sedona Method.

BUT...and again a big BUT.......it is also the point at which the Christian tradition departs from the New Age
( and what deeply unsettles me about the NA).
All that Ignatius is asking the believer is "What is Jesus speaking into this situation?"
By and large the New Age stuff (like Sedona) is what Christians would call Gnostic...a word which is known but profoundly misunderstood by the modern world.
It suggests that Jesus is a sort of spiritual principle to be encountered or absorbed
they often use expressions like "universal energy"
as if Jesus is some sort of spiritual power-plug.
Forgetting that the whole point of Jesus being human is that he is personal, that he is known as friend, brother and indeed son of God. Very "personal" language
When Mr Dwoskin talks about Jesus he talks about him in this way, when other New Age writers like Wayne Dyer (here) do likewise
They do not seem to talk about Jesus in the same way as the Christian faith does...not as the "word made flesh" but as some sort of spiritual principle...which has no embodiment, and is indeed  more like wish fulfilment, and (as Dyer puts it himself) 'magic'.

So, amidst all this
I am drawn back to the reality of Ignatius who calls his sisters and brothers (you and me) back to what it means to have a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth..... not some disembodied spiritual principle but a real man...
How does Jesus speak to me? How is he speaking to you?

I often say to my folk...if you find this hard to do ask yourself the question
 "If Jesus was speaking to me today what would he be saying about ....work, school, family, relationships, ....here put what ever is going on....day to day life"

That is probably closer to the truth than real magic!!!

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